Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced the formal launch of the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, which will invest $1.5 billion in the development of open and interoperable networks. Funded by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, this historic investment is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda, aiming to drive wireless innovation, foster competition, and strengthen supply chain resilience. By demonstrating the viability of new, open-architecture approaches to wireless networks, this initial round of funding will help to ensure that the future of 5G and next-gen wireless technology is built by the U.S. and its global allies and partners –not vendors from nations that threaten our national security.
“The Innovation Fund is a critical step toward securing 5G wireless networks while driving innovation at home and abroad,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Investing in the next generation of innovation will unlock opportunities for new and emerging companies to compete in the global telecom market, strengthen our telecom supply chains and provide our allies and friends with trusted choices and innovative technologies to compete in the 21st Century. We look forward to bringing the best of industry, academia, and the public together to deliver on this initiative.”
“This fund is a critical downpayment on our efforts to reshape the global wireless infrastructure supply chain towards secure and trusted vendors,” said Sen. Mark Warner (VA). “I look forward to seeing how the Department – working with U.S. and allied innovators and network operators – helps encourage this market to move towards security, interoperability, and greater wireless innovation.”
The Innovation Fund’s first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) follows extensive public participation via a formal Request for Comment and NTIA’s January listening session, which drew nearly 200 attendees. Industry and academic representatives provided nearly 90 public comments to strengthen the Innovation Fund and ensure that it achieves its mission of opening 5G and future-gen wireless markets to innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S., as well as by our partners and allies.
In line with feedback received through these processes, NTIA’s first NOFO aims to expand and improve testing to demonstrate the viability of new approaches to wireless like open radio access networks (Open RAN) and remove barriers to adoption. NTIA anticipates it will award up to $140.5 million during this first tranche of grants. The first round of awards will provide for a range of R&D and testing activities in this critical field, including:
- Expanding industry-accepted testing and evaluation (T&E) activities to assess and facilitate the interoperability, performance, and/or security of open and interoperable, standards-based 5G radio access networks; and
- Developing new or improved testing methodologies to test, evaluate, and validate the interoperability, performance, and/or security of these networks, including their component parts.
Later NOFOs will build upon the foundational work of this first NOFO, creating an ecosystem for wireless innovation built by the U.S. and its global allies.
“The Innovation Fund will help us transition to an open approach to 5G and future gen networks,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson. “With the investments from this initiative, the U.S. can help facilitate much-needed competition in the global wireless market and create a more resilient and secure wireless supply chain. I appreciate our team at NTIA for their efforts in leading this critical work.”
The Innovation Fund is the product of bipartisan legislative efforts aimed at creating a more secure, competitive, and sustainable global supply chain through the development of open and interoperable wireless networks.
“Today’s announcement marks critical new progress toward strengthening the security of our wireless networks,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. “This program is a win for both U.S. national security and innovation, and with it, we will help level the playing field against untrusted actors attempting to use our communications networks against us. I’m grateful for NTIA’s leadership in implementing this provision from my USA Telecommunications Act and look forward to seeing the marketplace for trusted equipment vendors flourish.”
Today’s NOFO kicks off the application window for funding, with applications due on June 2nd. NTIA will begin to award the first grants in August 2023 and encourages all those interested to apply for funding. A link to the Innovation Fund Notice of Funding Opportunity is available here.